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Kids on Film

'The Truman Show': Channeling Fun

June 11, 1998|MARK CHALON SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In "The Truman Show," Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, a likable guy who has unknowingly spent his entire life in front of millions of TV viewers. When his carefully contrived world begins to unravel, his audience is privy to every moment. Rated PG.

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"The Truman Show" has plenty of elements that can tickle a young (and older) mind. Kids brought up in front of the television were both amused and provoked by Truman Burbank's curse: an existence packaged exclusively for TV viewing.

In a land where Jerry Springer and others offer the emotional turmoil of supposedly regular folks as top entertainment, the leap to "The Truman Show" (that's what they call the voyeuristic program) wasn't that big.

Instead of becoming disturbed by the idea, youngsters at a recent screening in Laguna Niguel thought it might be a kick to peel back the blinds on a simple guy and spy on his every mood and move.

"What if he did something weird?" wondered Amy Doss, 10, of Laguna Beach. "You could see it and laugh. I think [that would be] OK."

We do, indeed, see Truman doing revealing things. He acts out fantasies, from a heroic adventure while mountain-climbing to imagining he's the ruler of the universe. Truman also shows his increasing uneasiness over a life that doesn't seem quite right, all in front of the public eye.

Although Amy liked the thought of kicking back in the living room and watching someone else, she wasn't so thrilled about the idea of herself being a subject.

"No way!" she squealed. "That would be sick."

Privacy and self-autonomy issues also pushed Mark Everett, 14, of Laguna Niguel to think twice. He enjoyed "The Truman Show" but couldn't imagine appearing in his own version. Mark said that sometimes he felt his own life was monitored too closely and controlled too much by parents and other adults, not unlike Truman's.

"He saw himself as being free, on his own, [but] he wasn't at all," Mark said.

Janice Mayfield, like Amy and Mark, was eager to see the movie because of Carrey. The 12-year-old from Mission Viejo, who has been a fan of the actor's since his "Ace Ventura" days, said Carrey wasn't as animated as she has come to expect, but that he was still a kick.

"He always makes me laugh," Janice said. "I laughed but felt sorry for him too."

Mark missed the more antic Carrey. "He usually is crazier and out there, [but] this was good too. . . . He was nicer."

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PARENTS' PERSPECTIVE: Combine a comic that just about any kid can love with an intriguing story line, and you have ideal family entertainment. At least that's how Lisa Ramirez of Laguna Beach saw it. Ramirez said she enjoyed how "The Truman Show" points a finger at TV and how it subverts reality.

"Television has way too much power in our lives," she said. "This picture got into that. Children probably wouldn't get all of it, but they'd still have a good time."

Perry Cavanaugh of Laguna Niguel applauded Carrey and director Peter Weir for making it work. "They took a smart idea and turned it into fun on most levels," Cavanaugh said.

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